In the News – Pre-Diabetes

Pre diabetes linked to cognitive decline

“People with higher than normal blood sugar called prediabetes, are more likely to experience cognitive decline and vascular dementia according to a study published in Diabetes, Metabolism, and Obesity.  

Researchers analyzed UK biobank data from almost 450,000 people averaging 58 years old who underwent an HB A1C test, which determines average blood sugar levels over the past two to three months.

Based on these results, they were divided into one of five groups:  low normal blood sugar, normal blood sugar, pre diabetes, undiagnosed diabetes, and diabetes. Pre diabetes was classified as having a hemoglobin A1C blood test reading of 6.0% – 6.5% %. Ideal A1C levels are under 5.5%

Results show that people with above normal sugar levels were:

42% more likely to experience cognitive decline over four years and 54% were more likely to develop vascular dementia over eight years. Vascular dementia is caused by reduced blood flow to the brain.

People with prediabetes and diabetes had similar rates of cognitive decline 42% and 39% respectively.

MRI brain scans revealed that pre diabetes was associated with a smaller hippocampus in the brain and more strongly associated with having lesions on the brain, both of which are associated with age related cognitive impairment.”

Editor’s note: ‘Previous research has found a link between poor cognitive outcomes and diabetes, but our study is the first to investigate how having blood sugar levels that are relatively high but do not yet constitute diabetes – may affect our brain health”

Source: Diabetes Obes Metab. 2021; 1-10.

Life Extension, May 2021

The Facts of Vitamin D (What We Think We Know)

Can Vitamin D Prevent or Ameliorate Covid-19 Infections?

Previous research has reported that vitamin D can increase the incidence and severity of infectious diseases like influenza or the common cold. The question remains as to whether this applies to Covid-19 infections. During these times, people are searching for a new way out to combat this virus as more reports of vaccine dangers (legitimate or not) become the major news of the day. The purpose of this post is to educate on the facts about about vitamin D as an alternative.

The primary role of vitamin D is to aid the absorption of calcium and phosphorus for bone formation and muscle function.  A deficiency can also increase the risk of chronic inflammation, a common cause of several major chronic diseases.

Vitamin D is produced to its most active form from cholesterol in skin cells upon exposure to ultraviolet rays from the sun.

Inadequate vitamin D status is common. It is reported that vitamin D deficiency can be common in the elderly, homebound or darker skinned individuals. Obesity is another risk factor for severe COVID-19 and low levels of vitamin D are commonly found in these patients.

Another primary function of Vitamin D is known to reduce inflammation and can stimulate the release of anti-microbial proteins that kill viruses and bacteria. A study at Northwestern University suggests that vitamin D could suppress what is known as the “cytokine storm” that has been reported to be fatal in some coronavirus patients.

People are scrambling to the supplement stores for vitamin D, but there are certain caveats to supplementation at high doses of any supplement on the market, including vitamin D.  Here is what you should know about its efficacy and/or safety.

It can become very easy to be deficient in vitamin D since it is found in very few foods like fatty fish, egg yolks and fortified milk (not commonly found in the highly processed Standard American Diet).

It is recommended that people ask their doctors for a blood test to determine their vitamin D status.  Deficiency is defined as a blood level below 10 nanograms per milliliter. Blood levels of 20-50 nanograms per milliliter are generally considered normal.

The Institute of Medicine recommend that most adults get 600 International Units (IU) of vitamin D from food and supplements daily or 800 IU if they are 70 years or older. Most experts agree that D is safe at doses up to 2000 IU and that 4000 IU a day is established as the Tolerable Upper Intake. The dose you take should be established by your physician and your blood levels. Toxicity is possible with long-term use of 10,000 IU daily.

The consequences of overdose include:

  • Mental retardation in young children
  • Abnormal bone growth and formation.
  • Nausea, diarrhea, irritability, weight loss.
  • Deposition of calcium and organs such as the kidneys, liver and heart.

What the Research Shows

A recent study at the University of Chicago reviewed the medical records of about 4300 patients who had been tested for COVID-19 early last spring. After controlling for factors like age, race, and chronic medical illness, they found that people with a vitamin D deficiency (defined as less than 20 nanograms/millilter of blood) before the pandemic began were 77% more likely to test positive for COVID-19 compared to people who had normal levels of vitamin D.

 Other studies have mixed results, however, there is enough compelling evidence to suggest that a randomized trial is needed to specially test to see whether assigning people to take vitamin D every day will reduce the severity of their illness, if infected. However, it is important to know the facts of overdosing any dietary supplement on the market since none have been under any scrutiny as to safety and efficacy. Consult with your primary physician.

Source:

Judith E. Brown, Nutrition Now. 7th Edition

Anahad O’Connor, Exploring the Links Between Coronovirus and Vitamin D. The New York Times, June 10, 2020.

Is Red Meat Harmful?

The Red Meat Debate: Use Some Common Sense

by foodworksblog Leave a comment

For the past decade or so red and processed meats (beef in particular) has been associated with a higher risk of heart disease and certain cancers.

The red meat debate continues as we wake up  this morning to the news that consumption of red and processed meats are of little risk to our health.

Back in 2015, an article appeared to agree with the current assessment about red and processed meat and in addition tells us how to deal with the disturbing reports about red and processed meat and heart disease and cancer.

So what can we really believe? The following article first appeared in 2015 and seems to me to take a common sense approach to the debate that never ceases.

Bottom Line – Life is a risk. Eat responsibly. As Michael Pollan says: “Eat Food, Not too much, Mostly Plants.”

If you are a true carnivore, we could add “eat meat in moderation.” Meat has been a traditional part of the American diet since our food culture began. On the other hand, we really don’t need meat at every meal as some think. How about trying some plant sources of protein now and then.? Try a Meatless Monday. Might be fun????

CLICK HERE.

Grass-fed Beef: Is It Safer?

by foodworksblog 15 Comments

A typical feedlot

Grass-fed beef comes from cattle that eat only grass and other foraged foods. Usually, beef and dairy cows eat a diet of processed grain, such as corn.  There has been an increased interest in grass-fed or pastured beef because of its health claims when compared to cattle from commercial feedlots.  Grass-fed beef may have some heart-health benefits that other types of beef don’t have. When compared with other types of beef, grass-fed beef may have:

  • Less total fat
  • Higher levels of heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids
  • Higher levels of another type of fat (conjugated linoleic acid) that’s thought to reduce heart disease and cancer risks
  • Lower levels of a dangerous strain of E. coli bacteria

Due to the almost continuous news of recalls of beef contaminated with a dangerous strain of E. coli 0157:H7 or often just called O157 bacteria, grass-fed beef purveyors have often promoted the idea of safer beef than conventionally-grown or grain-fed beef.  What does the science say?

Work conducted at Cornell University by Russell and Diez-Gonzalez in the late 1990s showed that cattle that were fed hay had far fewer E. coli concentrations than when they were fed a standard feedlot diet based on grain. (Microbes Infect 2, No. 1 (2000): 45-53.)  However, earlier studies did not look at the levels of the dangerous strain 0157 apart from other strains.

The researchers hypothesized that when grain is fed to cattle, their digestive tracts become more acidic.  Over time, the E. coli in their intestines become resistant to this acid environment.  When we ingest them, a high percentage will survive the high acid content of our digestive juices and increase the risk of E. coli food poisoning.  Theoretically few E. coli from grass-fed cattle will survive because they have not become acid-resistant.

Since this original work, other researchers have explored the link between cattle feed and E. coli with more attention paid to the presence of 0157:H7.  Some have confirmed the work by Russell and Diez-Gonzalez but the majority has disputed the finding.  For example, in 2003, at the University of Idaho, a study found no difference in the levels of E. coli 0157:H7 in grass-fed and grain-fed.  In both cases, acid resistance was high.  Other studies have come to the same conclusion.

Grass-fed growers point out that even if there is not much evidence that diet can affect the number and acidity of E. coli in the intestines of cattle, grass-fed beef may be safer in the long run than feedlot beef.  Simply, grass-fed cattle are cleaner at time of slaughter.

Feedlot animals often stand all day in dirt and manure and careless and dangerous practices in the slaughterhouses increases the risk of manure contamination of the meat.  For a graphic depiction of slaughterhouse practices, read “Fast Food Nation” by Eric Schlosser. A cleaner animal upon entering the facility will lessen this possibility.  In the magazine Meat Marketing and Technology, the associate editor stated: “pasture-raised animals are much easier to clean because they come form smaller herds raised in relatively cleaner pastures.”

From the www.onlygrassfed.com webpage:

“It (grass-fed) is usually processed in a small local meat processing operation by skilled butchers who are careful to avoid fecal contamination of the beef.  When you buy grass fed ground beef from a reputable local farmer, you can be assured it is not “frankenbeef.”  In fact, the ground beef probably came from one cow.  Rest assured, it was processed from quality, uncontaminated ingredients.”

In 2009, there were 4,643 cases of Shiga-toxin producing 0157:H7 E. coli illnesses; In 2010, the number rose to 4, 757.  Fortunately there were few deaths, but this strain can cause a condition known as hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS) often with lasting kidney damage for a lifetime.

Choosing whether to buy grass-fed or grain-fed beef is a personal decision based on taste, price, ethical and environmental issues.  Some grass-fed beef purveyors will say that it is OK to consume the beef raw as in steak tartar, for example based on the myth of less E. coli contamination.  If you choose grass-fed beef it is important to realize that you should practice all the safe-handling techniques recommended for grain-fed beef based on the current scientific evidence.

Related article

:

The Best Advice on Eating Red Meat

The Red Meat Debate: Use Some Common Sense

 

For the past decade or so red and processed meats (beef in particular) has been associated with a higher risk of heart disease and certain cancers. Two NYT articles are presented here to that addresses this issue and helps to clarify how to deal with this ongoing issue.

The red meat debate continues as we wake up  this morning to the news that consumption of red and processed meats are of little risk to our health.

CLICK HERE.

November 5, 2015

Back in 2015, an article appeared to agree with the current assessment about red and processed meat and in addition tells us how to deal with the disturbing reports about red and processed meat and heart disease and cancer.

So what can we really believe? The following article first appeared in 2015 and seems to me to take a common sense approach to the debate that never ceases. Hint: Life is a risk.

CLICK HERE.

There’s A Supplement for That!!

By Sally J. Feltner, M.S.,Ph.D

In 1994, Congress passed the Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act that loosened the regulation requirements that ultimately favored the manufacturers and led to an explosion of the dietary supplement market.
As a result, the FDA now has minimal regulation over testing prior to marketing concerning the safety or effectiveness of any supplement. Any testing is the responsibility of the manufacturer so it becomes difficult to “prove” any safety issues that may be present.

Since 1994, the FDA has taken action against many products because they contain prescription drugs or contaminants. Most of the products under scrutiny were labeled for use as sexual enhancement, body building, and weight loss.

Dietary Supplement Labeling:

Fortunately, what goes on the label is regulated. Structure/function claims can advertise  how the product affects normal body structures (such as “helps maintain strong bones”) or functions. Claims such as “improves circulation”, “prevents wrinkles” “supports the immune system”, and “helps maintain mental health” can be used, whereas “prevents heart disease”, “cures depression” cannot be.

If a function claim is made, the labeling has this warning: “This statement has not been evaluated by the FDA. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.” So who needs them?

Take the Case of Robert
Robert is 70 years old and has always been healthy. Recently, he experienced a few episodes of forgetfulness but thought nothing of it and attributed it to old age. Then he began feeling tired and having tingling in his hands and feet, difficulty walking, and diarrhea. He finally made a doctor’s appointment.

His blood test revealed he had a vitamin B12 deficiency and after a diet history, the doctor noticed he ate very little meat or dairy.  Due to his age, the doctor explained the deficiency could be caused by a condition common in older adults that reduces the ability to absorb  the vitamin and suggested he start to take a daily supplement containing the vitamin. He also gave him an injection of vitamin B12 in case the vitamin was not being adequately absorbed by Robert.

Who may benefit from vitamin and mineral supplements? 

  • People with a diagnosed vitamin and/or mineral deficiencies
  • Newborns (vitamin K)
  • Vegans (vitamin B12 and D)
  • Pregnant women (folate and iron)
  • Elderly persons on limited diets (multivitamin/minerals)
  • People on restricted diets (multivitamins/minerals)
  • People at risk for osteoporosis (calcium, vitamin D)
  • People with alcoholism (multivitamin/minerals)
  • Elderly people diagnosed with vitamin B12, vitamin D and/or folate deficit

Guidelines for Using Vitamin and Mineral Supplements
Purchase products with USP (U.S. Pharmacopeia or the CL symbol (Consumer Laboratories) – tested for purity, ingredients, and dose.
Choose supplements containing 100% of the Daily Value or less.
Take supplements with meals.
Tell your health care provider about the supplements you take. Some may affect your prescription medications.

Nonvitamin NonMineral Supplements

Fatty Acids: Omega-3’s, fish oils, DHA and EPA, flaxseeds

Claims: To reduce heart disease and enhance brain function. This claim has recently been disputed and needs further research as to its effectiveness.

Omega-3s compete with omega-6s (vegetable oils like corn oil, soybean oil, safflower seed oil) for conversion to eicosanoids that help regulate blood clotting, inflammation, and blood pressure in the body.
Problem: We have far more 6’s in the food supply than we have 3’s. They work best at a ratio of 4:1 but instead we have 20:1 in favor of 6’s.

Flaxseeds contain alpha-linolenic fatty acid that can be be converted to EPA and DHA in the body; but this is not very efficient in humans and decreases as we age. EPA and DHA are the active forms which can lower inflammation and blood clotting factors. That is why we should eat EPA and DHA directly from fish instead of relying on their conversion in the body from alpha-linolenic acid.

Bottom Line:

  • Found to not be very effective in reducing heart attacks in supplement form.
    Best to get them eating fatty fish 2-3 times a week. (salmon, trout, tuna)
    Possible problems with mercury and contaminants in fish (farmed and wild-caught
    Fish oil supplements not recommended for anyone taking blood thinner medications.

Enzyme Supplements

Enzymes are proteins that are  broken down in the small intestine to amino acids; thus, the original enzyme and its functions are not intact – so little if any effect can be gained from taking them in their enzyme form.

One exception: Some are made to work in the digestive tract before they are broken down. For example, lactase breaks down lactose and is helpful to people who are lactose intolerant.

So, if these are not specially coated to protect them as they are in cystic fibrosis, most enzyme supplements are totally useless to the body.  Healthy people make their own digestive enzymes in the pancreas and small intestine.

Hormone Supplements
Many marketed to athletes to replace the desirable steroid hormones that enhance muscle growth and strength and can be dangerous, like growth hormones. Again, without putting them to the test, there is no way to measure their safety or effectiveness.

Melatonin:
Not a protein, but a steroid hormone made in the pineal gland in the brain.
Marketed as a sleep aid and help with jet lag.
Claimed to improve sleep duration and quality
Somewhat effective
Dose is important – start low.

Coenzyme Supplements:
Coenzymes are enzyme helpers, such as coenzyme Q10.
Needed as an electron carrier in the final steps of energy (ATP) production
Are often claimed to be needed when statins are taken. .
This can cause side effects of statins of muscle pain and weakness.
Some studies show benefits of reduced pain – but not all

Herbal Remedies
As with all supplements, they are only as good if they are effective and safe (some are not). Human studies with herbal remedies have helped identify which herbals and supplements lack beneficial effects or have adverse effects. Some can pose a health risk. Results of most studies are mixed.

Guidelines for Herbal Use

  • Don’t use for serious, self-diagnosed conditions.
    Let your doctor know what herbals you take.
    Clear the use of herbal remedies with your doctor if you take prescription meds.
    Do not use if attempting or are pregnant.
    Don’t mix herbal remedies.
    If you are allergic to certain plants, make sure the same is not true of the chosen herbal supplement.
    Buy herbs with the USP label or have the CL label.

Functional Foods
Generally taken to mean food or food ingredients that may provide a health benefit beyond the effects of traditional nutrients it contains

Examples of functional foods with proposed health benefits include:

  • Stanol and sterol fortified margarines, psyllium fiber, whole oat products – reduced blood levels of LDL cholesterol
  • Omega-3 acids – reduce blood triglycerides – must be in high doses
  • Cranberry juice extracts – decreased urinary tract infections
  • Folic-Acid fortified breads and cereals – decreased neural tube defects
  • Probiotics – decreased risk of infections, lactose intolerance, diarrhea

DISCUSSION:

According to Marion Nestle, author of Unsavory Truths, and Food Politics – Paulette Goddard Professor of Nutrition, Food Studies, and Public Health, emerita, at New York University, Visiting Professor of Nutritional Sciences at Cornell:

“I wrote extensively about the paucity of evidence for the value of dietary supplements for anyone who eats enough of a reasonably varied diet. The supplement industry funds many studies that demonstrate health benefits from taking one supplement or another, but studies funded independently usually do not – and sometimes suggest that taking nutrients in pill form can be harmful.”

Don’t be fooled by the claims made by the purveyors of dietary supplements – In my opinion, most are more than likely no better than the remedies peddled by our ancestors, i.e., the snake oil salesmen. Lately some supplements have become very expensive (my opinion) and the consumer has the right to know whether to spend hard earned money on these products or not. To put it simply – Buyer Beware,

 

Vitamin D: An Anti Inflammatory Vitamin?

Vitamin D Foods

Study: Patients Low In Vitamin D Twice As Likely To Develop Severe COVID-19 Symptoms

Here are some facts about vitamin D.  It is important to remember that just one study is only an observation but can be used to form a hypothesis for further research.  Actually vitamin D is now thought of as a hormone that is involved with helping to build strong bones. Also as a hormone, it plays key  roles in combating chronic inflammation. It does this by entering cells and turning genes that produce Inflammatory substances “off” and those that produce substances that reduce inflammation “on.” In our days of living with the pandemic, we need to pay attention to the dietary factors that may help curtail the effects of the coronovirus or COVID-19.

Inadequate vitamin D status is common.

How to Improve your vitamin D status:

  • Substitute a cup of skim milk for a sweetened beverage at one meal or snack a day.
  • Eat salmon once a week at dinner.
  • Select a vitamin D-fortified orange juice.
  • Buy or select and consume vitamin D-fortified breakfast cereals.
  • Exercise or walk in sunshine for 10 minutes three times a week. Best to wear shorts or short sleeves for better exposure (weather dependent, of course). Vitamin D is manufactured from a form of cholesterol in skin cells upon exposure to ultra-violet rays from the sun. You cannot get too much vitamin D from sun exposure.
  • Take a vitamin D supplement (400-600 IU) daily until you are able to get enough vitamin D through dietary means. NOTE: Please get your doctor’s permission to take vitamin D supplements since it is classified as a fat soluble vitamin and can be toxic at high doses (4,000 IU/ is the upper Tolerable Level) or 100 ug/day.  Check labels carefully. Source: Nutrition Now, 7th Edition, Judith E. Brown

CLICK HERE.

How Safe are Salad Bars?

I may be paranoid but salad bars have never been appealing to me. The lettuce alone sits there sometimes for long periods of time and the temperature is almost impossible to maintain to be constant at less than 40 degrees. F. Anything above that for cold foods is called the danger zone for microbe growth. That zone is so important in practicing food safety principles and your health.

Note: The coronovirus itself has never been implicated in any food safety issue to my knowledge. However, until it is determined what its modes of transmission are beyond any doubt, food safety is a good idea for general healthy principles anyway.

CLICK HERE.

How much sugar?

We know in times like these, our sugar intake is the last concern on our minds. In fact, we may be eating more of it due  to stress and discontent of our current environment.   But when this horrible pandemic is over, we have to try to get back to improving our diets as much as possible to make up for lost time. Here is a good article about sugar intake that is in reality reasonable and informative in general about the glycemic index, fructose, and artificial sweeteners and processed foods.

CLICK HERE.

The Rise in Comfort Foods

Interesting observation on what type of foods we choose when in a state of crisis – makes common sense. The focus on healthy eating for now may have to take a backseat for awhile due to the restrictions from the coronvirus invasion.

Keep safe – to keep your immune system “healthy” get plenty of sleep, eat as well as you can, stay hydrated and most of all stay away from crowds. Wash hands often and after bringing in merchandise from outside, e.g. grocery bags, disinfect your kitchen counters, handles, and knobs on appliances with antiseptic wipes, bleach solutions or disinfectant sprays. It all can help.

CLICK HERE.